The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

NBO 2022: Back on track

July 18, 2022

By Paul Rivard 

It felt like 2019. Or 2018. Or any other of the editions that are now known as pre-pandemic. I’m referring to the press conference to launch the 2022 National Bank Open hosted by the unmasked and ever affable Eugène Lapierre.  

On site! And with people nearby! Several members of the media, as well as sports and business partners, were on hand to feel the early thrills of an event that promises to be as festive and spectacular as ever.  

The theme is Feel Tennis.  

It’s meant to launch Tennis Canada’s summer campaign—a season that culminates in the major tournament presented in Montréal (ATP 1000) and Toronto (WTA 1000). In this particular case, feel probably also meant re-experience tennis the way it was before COVID-19. 

And that’s exactly what Vice President Lapierre seemed to be feeling. So did the members of the Tennis Canada team, journalists and everyone else at the presser, which was held in a stadium suite overlooking Centre Court, of course!

Enter the elite

From August 5 to 14, Montréal will host the best of the ATP, including our very own Félix Auger-Aliassime (No.9) and Denis Shapovalov (No.23).  

Photo : Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Ever since the Torontonian shocked the world by ousting then World No.1 and living legend Rafael Nadal in 2017, the NBO has always made Shapo a headliner. Despite his recent slump, the left-hander is a magnet for fans who love brilliant tennis.

Photo : Tennis Canada

As for his friend and countryman Félix Auger-Aliassime, the homecoming is a huge celebration—not to mention the fact he’ll be turning 22 during the tournament, on August 8. The details haven’t been released yet, but if Félix isn’t competing on his birthday, he’ll make a quick appearance on Centre Court to blow out candles as bright as his young career.  

In addition to our two stars, the rest of the world’s elite have also RSVP’d. For various reasons you’re already familiar with, you probably shouldn’t count on No.2 Alexander Zverev or No.7 Novak Djokovic. Otherwise, everyone else will be in town, provided they can keep injuries and COVID-19 at bay. They’ll all be on the hunt for points, especially after coming off Wimbledon empty-handed.

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

With Medvedev (No.1), Nadal (No.3), Tsitsipas (No.4), Ruud (No.5), Alcaraz (No.6), Rublev (No.8), Sinner (No.10), Norrie (No.11), Hurkacz (No.12), Fritz (No.13), Schwartzman (No.14) and Berrettini (No.15) on the menu, it’s a tempting feast for fans. Gargantuan, even.  

Here are just some of the mouth-watering appetizers handed out by Eugène Lapierre: 

  • Rafael Nadal, who confirmed his entry and booked his hotel room, could equal Ivan Lendl’s record of six Canadian crowns. 
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas has fought in two finals in his three NBO appearances and will be looking for his first win in Montréal.   
  • Carlos Alcaraz has won all five of the ATP tournament finals he’s played in. 
  • Jannik Sinner is the second youngest member of the Top 10 and has a 26-14 record at Masters 1000s events. 
  • Matteo Berrettini, who’d been in the Top 10 since October 2019 until his recent expulsion, will be at his first NBO. 
  • Eternal fan favourite Gaël Monfils may be taking his last lap around Centre Court. 
Photo : Tennis Canada

A tournament of this caliber is open to the top 44 players in the world. Assuming Zverev and Djokovic skip it and someone in the top 44 suffers an injury between now and August 5, Lapierre was quick to mention the next three in line: Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, Alex Molcan of Slovakia and none other than Nick Kyrgios. 

Four wildcards, a special exemption and seven spots for qualifiers round out the main draw.

And the qualifying tournament!

Eugène Lapierre highlighted the high-quality matches fans can expect to see at the two-day mini-tournament at which players battle for a spot in the main draw.  

“I almost wish we could find another way to talk about this stage, because it’s Top 100 players who’ll be competing over the weekend. There are tournaments that would love to have the same caliber players as Masters 1000 qualifiers,” he said. “I’d compare it to a dining experience: it’s like a waiter saying ‘Don’t look at the first few pages of the menu. It only gets good towards the end.’ The qualifying matches are just incredible.” 

With that in mind, and in an effort to give fans an even better chance of catching some excellent tennis and getting startlingly close to the action, Lapierre reminded everyone that tickets for the first weekend, on August 5 and 6, are only $15. 

It’s all part of the IGA Family Weekend event—three days filled with activities meant to make tennis more accessible to more people. Like a pre-party before the party. 

Mental timeout 

Among the topics that were touched upon at the press conference was the Mental Timeout project presented by Valérie Tétreault, communications director at Tennis Canada. The former WTA player was the perfect person to outline the innovative wellness initiative led by ambassador Bianca Andreescu and focused on the mental health of everyone involved in tennis in Canada. You’ll find all the details here.    

Eugène Lapierre also took the opportunity to reiterate how proud he is of the NBO’s sustainability plan and how critical it is as we deal with climate change. 

The table is set. All that’s left to do now is wait for the guests to arrive for the ten-day tennis banquet in the enchanting setting in Parc Jarry in Montréal.